It started with Facebook, fireworks, and a girl. Now, District 225 high school student Ryan Ricco, 18, faces a Dec. 27 court date and a felony charge for threatening to blow up two local high schools.
According to court documents, Ricco initiated unwanted contact with a female Glenbrook South student beginning June 29. Despite repeated warnings not to contact her or her sibling, Ricco continued to approach the girl via Facebook and over the phone on Sept. 26, Oct. 12 and Oct. 29.
Although she did not respond to any of Ricco's contacts, he communicated with her through Facebook again on Dec. 8, and , according to court documents and Glenview Police Department reports.
Ricco told the girl that he had placed a bomb at Glenbrook North, set to detonate during lunch period at 12:25 p.m. According to police reports, he also said he planned to strap explosives to his body and set them off at Glenbrook South.
The girl's mother reported the threat to Glenview Police at 8:12 a.m. the same day. about three hours later at the Glenbrook off-campus facility, a site that serves students with special needs and behavioral and emotional problems.
Officers then searched his home in Northbrook, where they found one to three pounds of fireworks taped together, according to police reports. Ricco is charged with one count of felony disorderly conduct (bomb threat) and a misdemeanor count (illegal possession of fireworks).
Fireworks have been an interest of Ricco's for several months, at least according to his Facebook profile. While he lists a range of favorite movies, music and activities—including "having fun and girls duh"—Ricco mentions fireworks exclusively in the site's "interests" category.
Ricco was held in custody at the overnight and bond was set at $250,000 D at a Dec. 9 hearing. According to court records, Ricco's father posted $25,000—equivalent to the 10 percent required by a D-bond designation— and Ricco was released with electronic home monitoring until his next court date.
"[Ricco's bond] is one of the highest bonds I've seen a while," said Glenview Police Comm. Jeff Ader. "We typically see high bonds when the person is considered a threat to the community."
Ricco's attorney, Steven Weinberg, of Chicago-based criminal defense firm Weinberg & Rizzi, declined to comment for this article; Ricco's family said they did not wish to speak to the press. Patch has chosen not to identify the Glenbrook South student who Ricco allegedly contacted about the bomb threat because she is a minor.
"Other people think I stalk them," Ricco said to the girl via Facebook, according to a stalking no contact petition—commonly called a stay away order—that was filed by the girl's family Dec. 9. The Circuit Court of Cook County granted the order, which prohibits Ricco from contacting the girl or members of her family by any means, including text message, email, phone calls and third-party contact.
Portrait of a Troubled Teen Emerges
If carried out, Ricco's threats could have endangered approximately 4,700 students, the total number in District 225 (which incorporates both Glenbrook North and South).
But many students and parents say they think he was more troubled than seriously ready to bomb buildings. Patch's initial coverage generated several comments on the site. Some called Ricco "nuts" and said he had "mental issues," while others said he was "harmless" and "couldn't kill a goldfish."
One Glenbrook North senior who declined to be named said he knew a few girls from Glenbrook South who had received "repeated sexual messages" from Ricco over Facebook several years ago.
"I think there's some element of showing off to it," said Glenbrook North junior Alex Damisch, referring to the bomb threat. "Obviously, this kid needs some help."
The court officer who filled out Ricco's pretrial services bond assessment form echoed Damisch's sentiments.
"Needs to be in therapy," the officer wrote in the form's comment's section. "Was bullied as a child."
At the time of the incident, Ricco was a student at the Glenbrook off-campus facility, 1247 Waukegan Road, according to court documents. The off-campus program serves students who need more targeted support than the regular high school can provide, explained Jennifer Pearson, director of special education for District 225. While she couldn't confirm or deny Ricco's enrollment at the facility, she was able to speak in general terms about the district's off-campus site and the types of students it serves.
"It's next in the continuum before you'd consider other therapeutic environments outside of our district," she said.
On average, 40 to 50 students receive service there on any given day, she explained. Some students spend their entire school day at the off-campus site while others take only select classes at the facility and return to their respective high schools for the remainder of the day. Students are sent to the Glenview facility for several reasons, she explained.
"They may have a hard time with following directions, they may have a hard time controlling their emotions, whether that be things like depression or anxiety," Pearson explained. "Usually it stems from an emotional component, where the student has an emotional disability."
Patch was unable to confirm whether or not Ricco will return to school after the district's winter break. School officials cited confidentiality issues.
Are Glenbrook schools safe?
District 225 spokesperson Karen Geddeis said that while the district will not change any aspects of its current safety measures "in direct correlation" to the incident, "schools are always looking to improve the safety and security of students and staff."
"I think we handled it very well and the staff can be commended for their quick actions and their cooperation with the police department," she added.
Both Glenbrook North and South have a dedicated school resource officer who acts as a liaison with local law enforcement and monitors situations inside and outside of school that may affect school safety, Geddeis explained. While neither high school has metal detectors, all but the front doors are locked after a certain time on school days so that all students must enter through a single entrance.
Although police found out about the potential threat early Dec. 8, students were not sent home while officers searched for Ricco. The district deferred to police advice on whether or not to evacuate the buildings, Geddeis said.
"It was determined by the police that the school environments at both schools were safe," she wrote in an e-mail to local media Dec. 8. "At no time were students or staff in danger."
By and large, parents said they were happy with the way the schools handled the situation.
"I think they handled it just fine," said Dawn Spiewak, whose son is a junior at Glnebrook North. "I think it's because I trust [Principal] Paul Pryma, I trust the superintendent and I trust the other administrators at the school."
While most were satisfied with the school district's approach, others questioned the school's decision not to notify students and parents immediately and evacuate the buildings.
"I'm more than a little upset that I didn't even hear about it until [after]," one commenter wrote in response to Patch's earlier coverage. "If there is even the possibility of an attack, there should be immediate action taken to protect the students and staff, and that is apparently not what happened here. … The school administrators put many lives at risk and that is simply unacceptable."
Spiewak, like other parents, said she found out about the threat via a school e-mail, which was sent out later that day. Neither high school notified students during the school day; most found out about it from their parents when they got home.
"While I wanted more information out of the email, I always understand that they're kind of teetering on a fine line," said Glenbrook North parent and parent's association chair Mary Bleeker, referring to the balance between protecting students' privacy and assuring the safety of the overall community.
"I'm not ready for metal detectors," she added.
Students quizzed outside of Glenbrook North on Friday said they, too, weren't ready for increased safety measures.
"I feel safe being here," said junior Adam Paull.
Glenbrook North sophomore Aiden Baker agreed.
"We're in the North Shore," she said. "I didn't think [the bomb threat] was really going to happen."
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